On July 15, 2014, Inside EPA reported that "the White House is examining options for reversing EPA's proposed cuts to several renewable fuel standard (RFS) production targets in order to promote biofuels that create fewer greenhouse gases (GHGs) than conventional fuels, informed sources say, as part of the Obama administration's broader efforts to combat climate change."
The article also quotes sources stating:
"[F]igures under discussion between administration officials and industry representatives include raising the renewable fuel target -- largely met with corn ethanol production -- from 13 billion gallons in the proposed rule to a range of 13.5-13.6 billion gallons in the final rule; increasing the advanced biofuel target from 2.2 billion gallons in the proposed rule to a range of 2.3-2.5 billion gallons; and raising the biomass-based diesel target from 1.28 billion gallons under the proposed rule to 1.5-1.7 billion gallons in the final rule.
"The most dramatic increase under consideration is said to be for cellulosic biofuel, which would rise from 17 million gallons in the proposed rule to 23 million gallons in the final rule, the sources say. "
In a July 16, 2014, announcement, Evonik stated it has closed on an equity investment in Biosynthetic Technologies, LLC (BT), a specialist in biobased lubricants headquartered in Irvine, California. BT has developed and manufactures a new class of biobased synthetic oils called estolides that are used primarily in the passenger car motor oil and industrial lubricant sectors. Field trials have shown that the technical characteristics of the biobased synthetic oils made by BT are exceptionally good, and include the ability to combat soot buildup in engines, which helps keep fuel consumption low. In addition to Evonik, BP Ventures also participated as a second strategic investor in this current funding round that focuses on growth. BP Ventures and Monsanto Company have already invested in previous financing rounds.
BT's new class of biobased synthetic oils are made from organic fatty acids found in plant oils and have numerous uses in the lubricant, chemical, and cosmetics industries. They are biodegradable, nontoxic, and they do not bioaccumulate in marine life. BT holds a broad patent portfolio to protect these novel biosynthetic oils that are marketed under the trade name LubriGreen® Biosynthetic Oils. A copy of the press release is available online.
In a July 9, 2014, press release, the European Union (EU) announced the launch of seven public-private partnerships, established under the EU's new research funding program Horizon 2020. They represent a total investment of € 19.5 billion into research and innovation over the next seven years, where the EU contribution of € 7.3 billion will unlock a € 12.2 billion investment from the private sector and the Member States. The press release is available online.
These partnerships work in a number of fields crucial for Europe's economic growth, creation of jobs, industrial competitiveness, and well-being of citizens, one of which is a partnership between the EU and the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC). The priorities of this new € 3.7 billion public-private partnership, the Bio-based Industries (BBI) program, include doubling of the share of biobased chemicals produced in Europe (from 10 percent to 20 percent); an increase of biomass mobilization by 10 percent as well as a reduction of imports of protein for feed by 15 percent and fertilizer components used for feedstock production by 10 percent; and meeting of the 15 percent target increase in waste and byproduct utilization by 2020.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, stated: "The bioeconomy has huge potential that is attracting investments all around the world. With this new partnership, we want to harness innovative technologies to convert Europe's untapped renewable resources and waste into greener everyday products such as food, feed, chemicals, materials and fuels, all sourced and made in Europe."
Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO of Novozymes, stated: "The BBI 2014 Call for Proposals is a first step in a long-term strategy that will deliver tangible social, economic and environmental results. It is the outcome of a year-long effort involving the European Commission and the industry following an extensive consultation of experts and stakeholders. It is a visionary call that lays the foundation for an increasingly ambitious and successful initiative." More details on BIC are available online.
On July 10, 2014, Plastics News reported that Tetra Pak Inc. (Tetra Pak) is launching a new campaign to promote the importance of responsible material sourcing in the consumer products goods industry. Dubbed "Moving To The Front," the campaign seeks to place a focus on the use of renewable resources -- packaging materials that can be regrown or replenished naturally -- to protect world's finite resources. As part of the campaign, the company is out with a white paper, "What is Renewability in Packaging and Why Should We Care?" The campaign is targeting suppliers, manufacturers, brand owners, non-government organizations, and others to expand their focus beyond the middle and end of the packaging lifecycle "to the beginning," the company stated. The full story is available online. Tetra Pak's white paper, "Moving To The Front: A Call For A New Industry Commitment to Renewability," is available online.
As lignin supplies rise on the back of growing cellulosic feedstock utilization, commercialization opportunities of up to $242 billion are emerging in 13 select chemicals, according to a July 10, 2014, news release from Lux Research. Lignin, a component of lignocellulosic biomass and a common byproduct stream from cellulosic conversion processes, has a potential market worth of $242 billion across 13 select products alone, but commercialization of these lignin-derived chemicals such as BTX (a mixture of benzene, toluene, and xylene), and cyclohexanol lags growing feedstock supplies.
Today, the commercial sale of lignin is limited. Even though the pulp and paper industry produces about 50 million metric tons (MT), most is burned for power with only one million MT reaching the chemicals market. The supply of lignin from other sources is set to grow, however. Growing production of fuels from lignocellulosic feedstocks alone is projected to process up to 2.9 million MT in 2017, creating huge opportunities for the creation of higher-value chemicals.
"Lignin is capable of producing a variety of straight chain, cyclic and aromatic chemicals, each with market sizes ranging from the tens of millions of dollars up to the hundred-billion-dollar range," stated Julia Allen, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the report titled, "Finding Untapped Value: Converting Lignin to Higher Value Chemicals."
"But creating higher-value chemicals requires technology development to balance feedstock variability, lignin separation effects, depolymerization, and product separation challenges, which still has significant work ahead," she added.
The news release is available online.
On July 3, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it is making an additional $4 billion available in loan guarantees for innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the U.S. that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases. Part one of the solicitation is due October 1, 2014. Copies of the solicitation and fact sheet about the solicitation are available online.
According to DOE's press release on the announcement, "the Department has identified five key technology areas of interest: advanced grid integration and storage; drop-in biofuels; waste-to-energy; enhancement of existing facilities including micro-hydro or hydro updates to existing non-powered dams; and efficiency improvement." A copy of DOE's press release is available online.
DOE's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) hosts its seventh annual conference -- Biomass 2014: Growing the Future Bioeconomy -- July 29-30, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Co-hosted with Advanced Biofuels USA, this year's conference will take place at the Washington Convention Center. As in past years, Biomass 2014 will bring together top government officials and members of Congress -- with industry leaders and experts from across the bioenergy supply chain -- to continue ongoing dialogue about the critical challenges and key opportunities for the industry. The event will focus on the innovative technologies, priority pathways, financing strategies, and public policies needed to grow the bioeconomy of the future. Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) will be at Biomass -- stop by our table and say "Hi." More information is available online.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that, as part of its work to improve the safety of existing chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Agency will hold a public workshop to hear from experts on the use of trichloroethylene (TCE) as a degreaser, availability and efficacy of safer alternatives, and possible risk reduction approaches. The workshop is scheduled to be held on July 29, 2014, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on July 30, 2014, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. It will be located at EPA Headquarters, East William Jefferson Clinton Building, Room 4225, 1201 Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20460-0001.
More information on the workshop, including how to participate, is available online.
Learn how to pre-screen new chemicals using EPA's models and methods during this hands-on, three-day workshop co-hosted by BRAG, EPA, and George Washington University (GWU) School of Law. You will learn about a variety of tools, methods, and models that can be used to assess the hazard and potential exposure of chemicals early in the development process and anticipate regulatory action before submitting the chemical to EPA for review. Sustainable Futures (SF) graduates can be eligible to receive reduced regulatory review time for dual Premanufacture Notification (PMN)/Test Market Exemption Application (TMEA) submissions. Presenters include Dr. Peter Ranslow (Consortium for Environmental Risk Management (CERM)) and EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) staff. For more information on SF and benefits afforded to workshop attendees, visit online. A flyer with full details is available online.
On July 2, 2014, EPA released a signed, pre-published version of its final rule for "Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Pathways II and Modifications to the RFS Program, Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel Requirements, and E15 Misfueling Mitigation Requirements." Under the rule, EPA qualifies certain additional fuel pathways that the Agency has determined meet the lifecycle greenhouse gas reduction requirements for cellulosic biofuel under the RFS. The final rule also provides guidance regarding the feedstocks that EPA considers to be crop residues, including clarification that EPA considers corn kernel fiber to be a crop residue. In addition, under the rule, EPA is also "finalizing other minor amendments related to survey requirements associated with the ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) program and misfueling mitigation regulations for 15 volume percent ethanol blends (E15)." A copy of the rule is available online.
The final rule differs from the proposed version of the rule in several respects. For instance, in its "fact sheet" describing the rule, EPA states that it is "not finalizing the proposed advanced butanol pathway, the proposed pathways for the production of renewable diesel, naphtha and renewable gasoline from biogas, the definition of responsible corporate officer, or the proposed amendments to compliance related provisions in Section 80.1452 (requirements related to the EPA Moderated Transaction System (EMTS)). The Agency is deferring a final decision on these matters until a later time."
Under the final rule, the following pathways are now qualified for cellulosic and advanced fuel under the RFS:
* Compressed natural gas produced from biogas from landfills, municipal wastewater treatment facility digesters, agricultural digesters, and separated municipal solid waste (MSW) digesters;
* Liquefied natural gas produced from biogas from landfills, municipal wastewater treatment facility digesters, agricultural digesters, and separated MSW digesters; and
* Electricity used to power electric vehicles produced from landfills, municipal wastewater treatment facility digesters, agricultural digesters, and separated MSW digesters.
With this rule, EPA is trying to help facilitate RFS compliance by allowing additional pathways to qualify under the program.
On July 2, 2014, EPA issued a final rule outlining the elements of a voluntary third party quality assurance program to ensure the validity of renewable identification numbers (RIN) petroleum refiners use to confirm compliance with the annual fuel standard. Under the final rule, petroleum marketers may choose between two options to verify the validity of RINs generated between February 21, 2013, and December 31, 2014. Importantly, the final rule includes an affirmative defense for anyone except the generator of the RIN for any civil liability for a RIN that has been verified by a third party auditor. The final rule is available online.
On July 2, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Bioenergy Technology Office published in the Federal Register a "Request for Information (RFI) Regarding Integrated Biorefinery Lessons Learned and Best Practices."
According to the RFI, its purpose is "to solicit feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to lessons learned and best practices developed during the design, financing, construction, commissioning, startup, shakedown and operations of pilot-, demonstration-, and commercial-scale integrated biorefineries."
A copy of the RFI is available online. Comments are due by July 15, 2014.
On June 26, 2014, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a 38-page report on the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), "The Renewable Fuel Standard: Issues for 2014 and Beyond." The report examines potential compliance with the RFS through 2017 under three scenarios and evaluates the effects on food and fuel prices under each one. A copy of CBO's summary of the report is available online. A copy of the full report is available online.
The report evaluated the impact on food and fuel prices under the following three RFS scenarios through 2017: compliance with the RFS requirements for advanced, biodiesel, and corn ethanol (not cellulosic); compliance with the RFS volume requirements consistent with EPA's proposed 2014 RFS requirements; and repeal of the RFS requirements. While CBO found that food prices would be similar whether the RFS is continued or repealed, it found varying potential effects on fuel prices. For instance, CBO concluded that continuing RFS statutory requirements through 2017 would lead to increased price of all types of transportation fuels, except E85.
Advocates on both sides of the RFS debate are already using the report. Some opponents have already argued that the report's findings further support reforming or repealing the RFS. Some RFS supporters have dismissed the report's conclusions as contrary to those of other respected economists who have studied the RFS and come to different conclusions. The report comes as RFS stakeholders are eagerly awaiting EPA's release of its final 2014 RFS rule.
On June 30, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not review the constitutionality of the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). This decision is largely viewed as a win for the California Air Resources Board, the governmental body that regulates the LCFS, and supporters of the law.
On March 20, 2014, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), which represent the ethanol industry, and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), along with the American Trucking Association and the Consumer Energy Alliance, filed petitions for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court to make a final determination on the constitutionality of the LCFS.
The groups challenged the January 2014 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (the Ninth Circuit) to deny rehearing en banc in Rocky Mountain Farmer's Union v. Corey. On September 18, 2013, the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in Rocky Mountain Farmer's Union v. Corey reversing a lower court opinion that found that the LCFS violated the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against ethanol produced outside of California. The LCFS assigns higher carbon intensity values to ethanol produced in the Midwest than in California.